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Carpathia Review

Posted on June 19, 2012 by Billzilla

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    By Matt Forbeck
    Angry Robot Books
    336 pages

    In the interest of full disclosure, I readily admit that Matt Forbeck is a friend of mine. As a consequence, this review cannot be seen as totally objective. I firmly believe it can only be seen as fair, both to Matt and to the reader, but I leave that for the readers themselves to decide.

    Carpathia, the newest novel by Matt Forbeck and Angry Robot Books, takes place during the momentous disaster that was the maiden voyage of the S.S. Titanic in 1912. Historically, the first ship to arrive to render aid was the Carpathia. Matt’s premise stems from this, and from the idea that there might be a reason why the Titanic survivors would NOT want to be rescued by that particular vessel. In a word: vampires.

    As the story unfolds we find Quincey Harker, Abraham Holmwood and Lucy Seward enjoying their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on the Titanic. These characters refer to their “Uncle Bram” (Stoker) a couple of times, and it is revealed that their parents are several protagonists of Stoker’s story, Dracula: Jonathan and Mina Harker, Lord Arthur Holmwood, and Dr. John Seward. Their first names come from three other principal characters: Quincey Morris, Abraham Van Helsing and Lucy Westenra. More on this in a moment.

    Our heroes realize something is wrong, and start working their way to safe areas aboard ship. There is an interesting exchange when Lucy is ordered into a lifeboat, leaving her friends Abe (also her fiance) and Qunicey behind. The time of the Titanic sinking was also the era of women’s suffrage, and the “women and children first” tradition of allotting space in lifeboats briefly becomes a major point of contention. Abe and Quincey want Lucy away and safe; Lucy refuses to leave her dear friends behind. In the end, Abe and Quincey convince Lucy to go.

    Our heroes, after travails in the cold north Atlantic water, are indeed rescued by the crew of the Carpathia and brought aboard. At the last moment before rescue, the lifeboat containing Lucy picks up an Irishman, Brody Murtaugh, floating in the water. Unknown to anyone aboard the lifeboat, he’s part of a group of vampires who, upon hearing word of the distress call from aboard the Carpathia, turn into bats and fly to the scene for some easy pickings. After all, given the circumstances what’s one more missing body among hundreds? Dawn is approaching, however, and Brody decides the easiest way back aboard the safety of the Carpathia’s sun-proof holds is as one of the Titanic’s unlucky victims.

    The leader of these vampires has his group on the Carpathia bound for Europe. The attention given to their predations in the United States is making things too hot for their kind, and he seeks the relative safety of his remote, mountainous homeland on the Balkan Peninsula as a haven for the large group of predators. He is angry with Brody and others for risking the safety of the rest by their greedy quest for a quick meal. When Brody carelessly disposes of a body aboard ship and is witnessed in the act by Quinn and Lucy, things get out of hand.

    I thoroughly enjoyed Carpathia; Forbeck does a great job of setting the scene and of writing believable characters. The painfully direct connection to Bram Stoker’s novel seemed cheesy and unnecessary, but at the same time there are few other ways to have characters become not only believers in the supernatural, but also equipped to do battle with them so quickly. Still it’s a minor bump in the road, and Forbeck’s storytelling abilities more than make up for this short-cut. Along the way they’ll also have to deal with a love triangle, survivors’ guilt and a lot of angry vampires.

    Carpathia is a fantastically fun read. Its vampires are definitely not the sparkly, angst-ridden types, but rather ruthless predators who defend themselves viciously and do what they must to survive without remorse. In this, they are true inheritors of the legacy of Dracula himself. They are individuals and have their own conflicts, sometimes resolved in violent, messy ways. Carpathia is well worth picking up, even if you aren’t a big fan of vampires – it is arguably Forbeck’s best novel to date. It’s also an action-packed story and will have readers turning pages as fast as they can.

    Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

    Review by Bill Bodden

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